“The Paperboy” is a sexually provocative, racially charged film noir from director Lee Daniels. Set in 1960s South Florida, an investigative newspaper reporter named Ward Jansen (played by Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Yardley Acheman (played by David Oyelowo) chase a sensational, career-making story. With the help of Ward’s younger brother Jack (played by Zac Efron) and sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless (played by Nicole Kidman), Ward and Yardley try to prove that violent swamp-dweller Hillary Van Wetter (played by John Cusack), who is romantically involved with Charlotte, was framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff.
Based on the best-selling novel by Pete Dexter (who co-wrote the screenplay with Daniels), “The Paperboy” peels back a sleepy small town’s decades-old façade of Southern gentility to reveal a quagmire of evil as dark as a Florida bayou. “The Paperboy” had its U.S. premiere at the 2012 New York Film Festival, where Kidman, Daniels and Oyelowo gathered for a press conference after the movie was screened for journalists at the festival. This is what they said during the Q&A session.
Lee, this project has been around for a while with different directors attached. How did it get to you?
Daniels: It was Pedro Almodóvar that was going to direct it … I loved the book. It was by my bed. It stayed with me since “Precious/Push.” It had been with me for 13 years.
Is there anything you wanted to change from the book that you wanted to do in the movie, or did you try to stay as close to the book as you could?
Daniels: No. The two major changes [in the movie] were that the Yardley character was black. I felt that I had to put my voice into Pete Dexter’s book, so I had to bring [myself] into the book.
David [Oyelowo] and I were going to do a movie called “Selma,” about Martin Luther King [Jr.], so my headspace was very “civil rights movement,” so I put the racial tension from the ‘60s in the movie.
Nicole, what did you do to prepare for the Charlotte Bless character? How did you imagine her?
Kidman: I had a conversation with Lee [Daniels]. Obviously, I read [“The Paperboy” screenplay], and I kind of went, “This [performance from me] has to be authentic.” So I had to find a way.
Lee said, “You should meet with some women I can se you up with who are married to men in prison or having relationships with [prisoners] or are sort of obsessed with prisoners.” So I met with five different women. Lee arranged it. And that was how I kind of found my way in.
And actually, one of them said to me, because I freaked out, and I went, “Oh, this really isn’t me. I don’t know how I can be authentic in this role.” And one of them … kind of gave me the confidence. And then I just kind of let it flow out of me. And I kind of went with it. And I didn’t want to censor myself in any way, so I just went straight into the character, and I didn’t step out of it until we finished filming. It was the only way.
And I think physically, I just wanted to fly with the sexuality of her. Obviously, every character you play comes from parts or speaks from within in you, or the director triggers things that ignite emotions and feelings within you. And so, for me, the freedom of her sexuality is important, and that’s why really, from the point I was in Lee’s hands, I didn’t want to say no to anything. An important part of being an actor is learning not to shut down, not to say no, and to be completely free and open.
As you get older, you get a little more frightened, particularly now in this day and age. There are so many opinions and stuff. And that’s the thing that makes me want to go, “Screw this!” I just want to push through that and never stop myself from being brave or fighting through things, fighting through my own insecurities.
For more info: “The Paperboy” website